The Innampei festival of Chothe
- Part 2 -

Dr Cheithou Charles Yuhlung *

 Chothe Dance at the Festival of Tribal Dance :: March 26 2012
Chothe Dance at the Festival of Tribal Dance in March 2012 :: pix - Phurailatpam Banti

Day 2 (Tuesday Morning) - The Tangnga-rinta Think-bompa Ceremony

The following morning by 6-7 a.m, the Matured-adults members (Tangnga-rinta Bungkung) assembles at their outpost in their full traditional attires and conducts the Think-bompa ceremony like the Council of Elders. However, Pakhanglakpa occupies the higest position as the head in their group. He symbolically represents the commader-in-chief of the group and initiates his role by performing his first opening prayer with Zuting followed by Zurum. A senior member of the group(Hancha) conducts this counting and re-distribution of their political portfolios (Think-bompa) ceremony and later winds up the assembly with a prayer.

Later, as part of their custom, two Zujongs of Tangnga-rinta members went to deliver the food package (Kharai)to the absentee member's house. Then when they return after the distributions, two Lomjuis performed the official report (Thoukeipa)ceremonyto the Pakhanglakpa and the village priest. After which,the Pakhanglakpa concludes with a simple prayer with Zuting for the Think-bompa ceremony.

Hung Matheipa Ceremony: When the counting and re-distribution of the political portfolios ceremony was going on at the Tangnga-rintaBungkung, the Council of Elders prepares for the Hung matheipa(lit. tuning of the drums) ceremony. At the main venue of the festival place, the village chief made his opening prayer with Zuting for the tuning of the drums and for the Innampeilin festival to begin.

This first opening prayer and the Zurum (Zuron)for this session is termas MuipaZuron (lit. wine serve to tame). After this prayer,the two Ruiswentand broughtthe village drums from the Tangnga-rintaBungkung's place. When they brought the drums, two Hachariswith thier skills tested the drums with different beats several times until they are satisfiedwith the sounds. Then there is light refreshment but usually lunch was organised by the host and as a courtesy, they distribute the food packages for the absentee members.

Then, after lunch two or three Hacharis performed the official reporting ceremony again (Thoukeipa) like yesterday to their three main village chiefs and thus, concludes this morning session with a short prayer by the village chief. However, one very important significant socio-religious taboo observed in the past is that they should not completely stop beating the drums until the chief offer the conclusion prayer. According to them, they believed that the sounds of the drums convey a different meaning to the neighbouring villages and tribes like war or attack.

Day 2 (Tuesday Afternoon Session) - The Fho-parakpa and Chamtunlam Ceremony

By 2:00 pm when all the members of the village council assemble at the festive place in their full traditional attires for the afternoon session, the assistant-chief (Luplakpa) offer a short opening prayer with Zuting followed by the first alcohol (LeizuZurum), after which, they proceed to officially invite the village chief to formally inaugurate the Innampeilin festival.

The chief consent and after a prayer, leads the group in procession to the festive place. They claimed this particular chief's prayer is very important. If any ominous sign appeared on their way, they take it as a bad omen. Therefore, people and children are warned not to play on the roadside or obstruct or intervene their path or come into direct contact with the chief's party.

The chief (Hulak) enters the festive house with his right foot first. Similarly, the Luplak, Zupai, Keirungs, Hacharis, Lomjuis and all others similarly follow him according to their hierarchical position and status, and occupies their respective seats. The host and his wife warmly welcome the chief offering the wine and chutney to all the tired members.

Fho-parakpa (Shield Movement): Then, the Ruis brought in the drums and meanwhile a senior Hachari prepares for the shield movement dance. The village chief offers a prayer with the husk rice-beer (SawaiZu) for the first time (instead of Zuting). The first person to taste this rice beer is Hachari and it is only after he recommends that the rice beer be served to all.

For the symbolic war dance, one of the Hacharis dresses up in a typical warrior style, the shield (Fho) on his left hand and the hilt sword (Chaamtun) on his right hand salutes the four great political chiefs: Hulak, Luplak and Zupai and the Keirung. Then, he demonstrates with his shield and sword charging and shouting how they fought the defensive wars and battles and became victorious in many events. This symbolic warrior act is termed as Fho-parakpa (lit. the shield movement/ dance).

Chamtun Lam (War/Sword Dance): When the shield movement (Fho-parakpa) ceremony was over another two Hacharis dressed in their traditional costume performed the sword dance (Chamtun lam). The two Hacharis both grabbed the decorated sword in their right hands, wore the peacock's feathers on their heads, and dances in accordance to the rhythmic drum beats and songs- thrusting forward their hilted swords (Chamtun) and encircling the house.

The dance indicates the striking and slaughtering of the enemies in accordance to the music played. These war dances symbolically represent their jubilation in battles. The singing and dancing continued till evening and concludes with a prayer by the village chief.

Day 2 (Tuesday Evening Session) - The Haizu and Lamzu Ceremonies

By 5-6 pm as soon as the village chief arrived to the festive place escorted and took his seat, the host (Lomtunpa) offers the Tongkaipa prayer, followed by Zurum, and immediately the singing and dancing began. The importance of this evening program is that they have to sing alteast two special types of death commemoration songs dedicated in memory of their great ancestors (The legendary heroes) who immensely contributed in uplifting their society.

The first commemoration song and dance is term as Haizu (lit. relinquish the wine), and the second song as Lamzu (lit. country wine). Before this first song began, a short prayer is offered and while singing the song the wine has to be served three times to all the members present.

For the second commemoration songs (Lamzu), the Ruis replaces the old wine pot with the new one indicating different ceremony. Similarly, after a short prayer, the song began and they serve three times the wine from the new pot to all. When these commemoration songs and dances are over, two Hacharis performed the Thoukeipa act again to the three chiefs, followed by a prayer to wind up the ceremony.

Later, the Ruis escorted the three chiefs to their respective houses. The rest of the members continued drinking and practicing the Sikang-la (lit. the bench songs) till mid-night. Any taboo is strickly observed by them all even in this session.

Day 3 (Wednesday Evening) - The Lineage Festival (InnkuRhin-neipa)

The term InnkuRhin-neipa means 'lineage festival' (Innku-lineage, Rhin-neipa-festival). As part of their custom and tradition in the past, every lineage celebrates their own festival in the lineage or clan head's house (Pipa'shouse), who ranked as cabinet members in the Council of Elders (Urinta). Each Pipa prepares the special fermented husk rice beer (SawaiZu) in advance.

The members of the village council went house to house and tested this filtrated rice beer with meat chutney. Therefore, this tradition of visiting papa's house or council of elder's house is known as TuichumLoipa. The name 'Tuichum' derives from 'filtered water/wine'.

By 3-4 pm, all the village council members gathered at the festive place, then they first proceed to the (Hulak) village chief's house, singing along with their drums to relish and taste his husk rice beer (SawaiZu). The chief offer his best rice beer with meat chutney after a short prayer where the members present relishes. During the hour, there were discussion and compliments and they wind up with another simple prayer by the host. Likewise, all the members proceed to assistant-chief (Luplak) house, Zupai, Keirung and so on to all cabinet or pipa's house.

However, the last house to visit should be the festive place (Lomtun) whatever his position and status may be, since they have to continue rehearsing the songs and conclude with a ceremonial rite for the day. At Lomtuns's house, only when the host performed Tongkaipa, then only the three leaders leave the place to rest for the night, while others members of the council continues drinking and singing.

This InnkuRhin-neipa or lineage feast celebrates only in the evening for three days i.e. Wednesday - Friday. The rich and wealthy Council of Elders (Urinta) often provide dinner along with the drinks. The preparation process of this SawaiZu fermented husk rice beer is a slow and long process. The village youths: Leibaks and Tangshas divided themselves in groups of three-five individuals and spent two/ three sleepless nights filtering this husk rice beer, who also inspects the quality of it.

Day 4 (Thursday Morning Session) - The Tradition of MeisheiHuppa

There are three sessions on this fourth day. They are :a) Meisheihuppa, b) Innkurhinneipa and, c) Innampa Jairikhonpa. Literally, Meisheihuppa means 'binding the torch stick'. It is a traditionof binding the long stalks of thatch (Ching-ngan/lang) into small bundles for lighting at night and for other purposes. This tradition is no longer practiced with the introduction of modern lighting technology. However, lunch were organised by the youth leader.

Second Session: InnkuRhin-neipa: Like the previous evening, by 2:30-3:00 pm the same procedure of lineage festival (Innkurhinneipa) is carried out by first assembling at Lomtun's house, who then proceed to the chief's house. The same procedure follows like yesterday's evening.

Third Session (Evening) - TongthiGitpa: The evening session is called as Innampei Jairikhongpa meaning 'The youth coming to hold the night' at the festive place. They also term it as Saphei Jairik Hongpa Lungni meaning 'The day the youth coming to spend the night at the veranda of a house'.

After the dinner around 5-6 pm, all the village council members assembled at the Nungak-lutheiBungkung (Youth's house/ dormitory), and when all necessary arrangements are made the Leibaks (youth/soldiers) went to escort the village chief. Women and children began arriving at the festive place to see the dancing and singing. The inauguration ceremony to mark this day celebrationis called TongthiGitpa (lit. Insertion of the winepipes).

The senior youths Hithang/Thangsha carefully arranges all the items required. The seven wine pipes (Tongthi) symbolically represents the seven clans/Pipas or members of Council of Elders. Then, one of the Rui assisted by another fellow Rui carefully inserts all the seven pipes.

However, the two pipes on the southern sideis reserved for the host (Lomtun) and his wife, another three pipes on the eastern side are mean for the Hulak, Lulak and Zupai respectively, and the other two pipes on the northern side are meant for guests and commoners. Except the last two pipes, others five wine pipes prohibited to sip from it. When this insertion of wine pipe is over the host perform two prayers by offering different wines - first with the SawaiZu and the second with Leizu.

After this prayer, a senior girl first serve the liquor (Leizu) to the host who similarly offers the prayer for the second time. Then,the Hithang (senior most Leibak) inspects all the wine pipes for any complication and then invites the brewers i.e. the womenfolks to come and taste their rice beer (SawaiZu) from the big pot. This invitation is called as Hipot (lit. imploring).

Subsequently, a Leibak makes a formal invitation with a typical courtesy by extending his hand (like the Chinese) to the three leaders; Hulak, Luplak and Zupai to taste the special sawaizu, then followed by Zurum. After which, there is a common break where the wine and meat chutney were served to all.

Nimok-laa: Soon after this Tongthigitpa ceremony, they have to sing five very important songs called Nimok-laa (lit. devotional song of Sun worship) before the dancing begins. After completing all the five songs, only the boys exclusively in their full traditional attires made their war dance (Chamtun-lam). Young boys' dances song after song in batches impressing the girls and their parents with their dancing skill. This dances lasted till mid-night and wine was served after each song.

Later, when the Chief and Assist-chief decide to leave the place, the host performs the closing prayer (Tongkaipa) and some youth escorts them one after another to their respective houses. When all the elders have left the festive place, the rest of the mid-night belongs to the youths. The young boys and girls get an opportunity to mingle, socialise, inter-mix freely and court the love of their choices. Thus, the name derives as Innampei Jairik Hongpa or Saphei Jairik Hongpa Lungni, while some called it as Innlamteni (lit. coming to house). However, the senior youths oversee them.

The significance of Thursday evening session is that they have to compulsorily sing five Nimok-la songs without which dancing cannot begin. Secondly, only the boys exclusively should dance, and no girls should participate in this war dance(Chamtun-lam). Thirdly, the evening provides the youth an opportunity to socialise and court a girl of his choice.

Fourth, as part of the socialisation process and amusement, the youth are encouraged to carry out certain mischiefs like stealing certain consumable items of the villagers at mid-night like: domestic fowls, fish, fruits, vegetables, etc provided they are not caught red-handed and the stolen items have to be consumed that mid-night itself without leaving any traces of it.

To be continued ....

* Dr Cheithou Charles Yuhlung wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 13, 2019.

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